Hang Up...Call Back

By Ron Rosenberg

There's an expression I used frequently when I ran the Quality function for a large multinational telecommunications company. I'd be meeting with some of our team members who were getting frustrated with the resistance they were getting in trying to work with some of their assigned groups.

We determined that some of these groups simply weren't ready for the level of training we were trying to share with them. In some of these cases, we needed to slightly change our approach; in others, it was clear that nothing was going to work.

In these cases, I would point out that "the only good thing about banging your head against the wall is that it feels good when you stop."

Service? What Service?

Sometimes customer service can seem that way. If you're like us, then you've probably experienced bad service when trying to resolve an issue on the phone with a "so-called" customer service representative. In fact, you've quite likely experienced this in the last week.

Oh, sure, there are the extremely rare times when you just happen to get the one intelligent person in the call center on your first try; but let's face it, that really doesn't happen all that often.

Most of the time, you get service so bad that you want to stick your hand in the phone and have it come out at the other end so you could knock some sense into the person you're talking to.

Time is Valuable

Sometimes the frustration builds gradually as you spend more and more time trying to plead your case, only to run head-on into processes, bureaucracy, and red tape designed, not to deliver great service, but rather to frustrate, stymie, and intimidate the callers to back down without getting what they want...and deserve.

Other times, though, you pretty much get a feeling as soon as the person answers the phone that you're going to be in for a wild ride.

For example, we recently bought some furniture from the online dealer, Wayfair. We had some problems with the first shipment, and the three customer-service reps we spoke with were all extraordinary - and that's a word I almost never use in this context! In fact, we'll be writing about that whole experience in a future "At Your Service" article.

But with a different person we reached on a subsequent order, this wasn't the case. Oh, the service wasn't horrible, but we just knew right off the bat that he wasn't going to be as helpful as the other three reps had been.

But since we were operating from the framework that great service was the norm with this company, we stayed on the line. This was a mistake, because the more time I spent on the phone with him, the more frustrated I became.

Had I followed my initial instincts, I would have taken advantage of an incredible tool that saves both time...and frustration - a tool we refer to here as: HUCB.

Why Waste Your Time?

As you've probably guessed from the title of this article, "HUCB" stands for "Hang Up...Call Back" and the steps are fairly straightforward:

  1. Customer-service representative comes on the line and your gut tells you that it's not going to be a good call.
  2. Find a polite way to get off the call, something like, "I'm sorry, I'm having trouble hearing you - let me call back." - and then hang up and call again.

That's it. Of course, this is only a guideline and doesn't work in every case. For example, if you had to spend 20 minutes on hold listening to the Montovani Orchestra's heart-pounding rendition of Stairway to Heaven, it might be better to plod through with the rep you get instead of sitting on hold all over again.

There are other ways of getting a competent representative on the phone.  Here are a few you can try:

  • Ask for a Supervisor - When you don't seem to be making any progress, you can politely, but firmly, ask to speak with a supervisor. That person will have more authority to resolve your issue, and can generally go "out of process" to make that happen. When you're transferred, be sure to confirm that you actually are speaking with a supervisor - more than once I've been transferred to a another front-line representative who had no more skill or authority than the first person.
  • Ask for Someone in Your Home Country - With the growth of outsourcing, many call centers are now located in offshore English-speaking countries like India and the Philippines. This isn't always a bad thing - frankly I don't much care where the reps are located as long as (1) I can understand them, and (2) they can help me.When I sense that this won't be the case, I'll ask to be transferred to a rep here in the United States.  I do this politely, of course, something like, "I don't mean any offense, but could you please transfer me to a representative in the United States?" In almost all cases, they are able to do this, and, while this doesn't always guarantee better service, it does in many cases.

You Get the Service You Demand

Every minute you spend on the phone getting frustrated is a minute you're not spending providing value to your customers, clients, and members. You go to great lengths to make sure you're delivering great service yourself; there's no reason you should expect anything less from your own vendors and suppliers!